Thursday, March 6, 2008

Poker Tourney Last Weekend

I played in a poker tournament last weekend. I was happy with the way I played, but I didn't win anything. The tournament started at 3:00pm with 100 players. By 7:30 there were less than 50 players remaining, and I had three times as many chips as I started with. By 8:30 I was knocked out of the tournament. If you aren't interested in my "bad-beat" story, there's no need to read any further, you can consider this the end of today's post.

My loosing hand went like this:

I had 5 and 6 of spades. The player sitting in the "under the gun" (UTG) position limped in with a call of the big blind. This was followed by the next 4 players with fold, call, fold, fold, respectively. No I had a lot of chips and by now I've established myself as a VERY tight player so I figured I'd bluff and try to push the limpers and the blinds off their hands. I raised three times the big blind.

The player sitting in the button position as well as both blinds fold. So far I've accomplished what I intended. Now I'll be thrilled if the two original callers dump their hands, but if I get one caller, things are still ok. If I get raised, I'll certainly fold.

Both of the original two callers call me. Both players have previously demonstrated some skill and knowledge of the game, so I've got to figure they've got strong hands. At this point I figure them for either high cards (AK AQ) or a decent pair (9s or higher). I know I'm behind, but it's an easy hand to get away from if I don't hit the flop.

Flop: 7 spades, 8 hearts, Q spades

Not bad, any 4 or 9 will give me a straight, and a and spade will give me a flush. I'd prefer to check this and get a free card if I can, I'll call a small bet, and fold to a raise or large bet.

UTG bets a bit less than 1/3 of what's in the pot so far. It's a bit more than I wanted to call. I figure UTG for a pair of Queens with a decent kicker, probably a K or A, or perhaps a pair of Kings or Aces. If the next player were to raise I'd figure them for 2 pair or better, and with two players both with better hands than me, I'll have to fold. If he folds, there won't be enough in the pot to make it worth calling, and I'll probably fold.

The next player calls.

Ok, so now I've got to call about 4X the big blind for a decent draw to win at least 20X the big blind.

I decide the following about this player:
unlikely to have 9,10 or he'd have folded to my raise pre-flop.
unlikely to have a pair less than QQ or they'd fold to the UTG post-flop bet.
unlikely to have a QQ with a kicker less than K or they'd have folded to the UTG post-flop bet.
unlikely to have 2 pair or they'd raise to try to thin the field.
unlikely to be bluffing, because that would require a raise.
unlikely to be trying to draw out against 2 betting/raising players with a gutshot straight draw (holding a 10,J or 4,5) or low kicker flush.

My best guess is that he has a flush draw with the Ace or King.

I can call this bet with a pay-off of at least 5X my bet if I catch the straight with out a spade. If there is a spade, I act last so I can wait and see how the other 2 play before I make my decision.

Turn: 9 diamonds

What do you know? I caught my straight, and it wasn't a spade.

UTG checks.

I'm feeling pretty confident that UTG is sitting on a pair of queens with a decent kicker. She's now a bit frightened by the potential straight, and a bit worried with neither of us backing down up to now that one of us might have her out-kicked,or have 2 pair or trips. She's probably not too concerned about the potential straight. My pre-flop raise should have her thinking that I've got some high cards, and the other players call would indicate the same.

The next player bets about half the pot.

I figure he probably wants to test us and thin the field. He sees the same opportunity as I do to convince the UTG position to fold her cards, and he needs to find out if my hand is better than his or not. I still figure he's got the flush draw with the Ace or King, but it's also possible that he could have:
QQ with A kicker
Trip Q's
or if he was playing really crazy pre-flop he might have flopped 2 pair.

I've got the straight and I'm sure I've got them beat. I raise 4X the current bet. This is enough that it should get them all to fold. A flush draw might call me, but if s/he doesn't catch on the river, I'm set.

UTG folds. Yep, I'm nearly certain that she was sitting on QQ with a K or A kicker. Probably the A.

Next guy raises me all in.


Ok, so I spend the next three minutes or so replaying all this in my mind, recalling just how each stage played out and deciding what hands might be played the way he did. He's betting into me with a potential straight on the board, and knowing that I raised pre-flop and post-turn. I finally decide that he can't figure me for the straight for the same reasons that I know he doesn't have the straight. There are a few hands that might be played the way he did.

AA: He figures me for KK or for QQ with A kicker.
QQQ: He figures me for trip 7's, trip 8's, or a pair of Q's, K's or A's.
two pair, trip 7's, or trip 8's: He called pre-flop to change it up a bit and got a lucky flop.

I've got the second best hand possible right now. The only hand that could beat me is a 10 and J. (Perhaps you can see where this is going) If he had 10,J he'd likely have folded to the raise/call pre-flop. It would be obvious that he was dominated by at least one and probably two players. If it was suited, he might have called but still unlikely. He'd definitely have folded the gutshot draw on the flop when UTG bet out and he still had me behind him.

I'm excited that I'm about to double up and will probably set myself up for an eventual place at the final table. I can feel the adrenalin as my heart rate increases. In the back of my mind I'm telling myself that he can't possibly have the 10,J and yet I wonder. I call.

We flip up our cards, and I know immediately that I'm probably headed home. He's got the 10 hearts and the J diamonds.
I hope for a spade, but when 3 other players announce having folded spades I realize it's very unlikely. I have no idea why he didn't fold pre-flop or pre-turn, but once that 9 came out, he had me.

I can't find a time in this sequence that I should have played it differently. I played well, but lost. Perhaps if I was better at reading "tells", I might have been able to figure out that he had me beat.

I went home proud of how I played but disappointed with the result.